Monday, 18 November 2013


Now that the name Dwight Ball is no longer prefaced with the tentative title, “interim”, he has all the political and moral authority needed to clear a path to the Premier’s Office. 

It is reasonable to state that the Liberal Party has given the people of the Province a real political alternative; one badly needed in the land of Premier Kathy Dunderdale. 

The new Liberal Leader deserves the congratulations of the whole Province. 
Leadership contests refresh, renew and reinvigorate.  Liberal democracy is advanced each time such contests occur.  Political parties, the foundation of our system, are given legitimacy by virtue of their ability to effect peaceful change.  Not just the Leader, it seems every participant in the exercise, is given new energy.

The Liberal Party, having eschewed the more traditional leadership convention, a style known for its post-ballot brokering and surprise, demands that we acquire new benchmarks for grading victory.  Having achieved nearly 60% of the vote, on the third ballot, Mr. Ball’s authority seems firm. 

Just possibly, he may have also dismissed notions that the Liberal Party’s nascent rise in the Opinion Polls relates more to the disintegration of the Premier's popularity than to the public confidence he engenders.

Though Ball will want to concentrate all his thoughts on the next election, there is no better place to begin than in the House of Assembly.

A ‘loyal’ opposition is intended to mean one that is ‘steadfast’.  Ball’s small group will be expected to punch above their weight, giving vigorous challenge to the Government’s program, its unwarranted secrecy and reckless behaviour.  His own performance will be linked to his future prospects.  In the current political environment he must know that expectations of him are high.

Ball may be fortunate he is will not be distracted by malcontents in the Party.

Whether a consequence of the new voting system or a measure of the maturity of this crop of candidates, the Contest appears to have eschewed the strife that characterised a Liberal Leadership vote of the recent past. While such discord makes good television it disturbs the sensible.  

I am inclined to give much credit to Dwight Ball for that outcome.  A year ago he could have justifiably alienated Dean MacDonald, who used his position in the Party to advance support for Muskrat Falls, even as he fumbled the Liberal Party’s policy fest. 

Equally, Ball could have labelled third place finisher, Cathy Bennett, as a shill for the Muskrat business fraternity.  But, he possesses a patient, even calm demeanor.  It is a quality that has afforded him deft handling of those on the wrong side of the ‘sword of Muskrat’.   
In contrast to Ms. Bennett, Paul Antle's stature, as an intelligent and skilful politician,  has been enhanced following this Contest.  Mr. Ball would be well advised to stay in touch with him as he searches for new and credible candidates with whom to fight the next election.   
One major outcome of his victory is that Ball will no longer feel constrained to have the Liberal Party take stronger policy positions, including on Muskrat.   That issue, alone, contains explosive power.  After more than two years of discussion it is still largely misunderstood.  As its costs get tallied, I expect Muskrat to destroy the Tory Party for a generation. Unlike Dean MacDonald and Cathy Bennett, I suspect Mr. Ball is not oblivious to this reality.

Dwight Ball emerges from the Liberal Leadership contest stronger, but his challenge is to put a reinvigorated political and moral authority to good use.  Though he is often referred to as ‘gentlemen’, that appellation will have limited currency as the Government’s PR types and others begin to eviscerate his policies and his character.  

He seems neither a dogmatist nor a crusader. He enjoys a reputation for integrity. 

His friends ascribe to him values that suggest he is a person of compassion and generosity, that he is a decent fellow, respectful of democratic values.  His victory speech commitment to repeal Bill 29 reflects these values and his common sense.

Dwight Ball will not get to enjoy such effusive praise often.

Like all members of the public, this Blogger will keep a close eye on how well he performs.  If he does well, it will be duly noted; if poorly, he shall receive the opprobrium the misstep deserves. 

What is certain is that we want him to succeed. The Province badly needs new leadership.

In that cause, we surely wish him good luck.